TARA COLLUM | Contributing columnist

I recently read an article by an NPR reporter who caught a breakthrough COVID case after being vaccinated. While the case was mild, in that he didn’t need to be hospitalized, he was sick for five days and lost his sense of taste.

His personal experience showed me the importance of continued testing, masking, socially distancing, and made me even more worried for those that aren’t vaccinated whose immune systems are more vulnerable.

I could list quotes from our national chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam, like the latest number that those that are unvaccinated are 36 times more likely to be hospitalized . Or stats about the current crisis in Alberta, or that adults in their 40s and 50s who aren’t vaccinated are ending up in the ICU.

But this information is available for everyone to seek out, so I would like to tell some more personal experiences of people who have had COVID in the hopes more people will get vaccinated.

My cousin Ted is a father and construction worker living in a small town in Massachusetts, and he caught COVID last January, and had to miss two weeks of work to recover, and he still feels the effects, is winded more easily, and has shortness of breath. This is what he’d like people to know about COVID: “It’s not just the flu. The lingering effects are nothing like the flu. It doesn’t fade away. My father-in-law still has little to no taste. My college professor was hospitalized for weeks and still needs oxygen treatment (he’s only 50.)”

This is Ted’s message for people that are on the fence about getting the vaccine

“Why not? There are literally millions of vaccinated people that have gone before you without any signs of harmful side effects compared to the actual virus.” Ted who is now fully vaccinated continued, “Vaccinated people still get sick, but it’s far milder than unvaccinated people. There is no real drawback to getting the vaccine and it has nothing but benefits.” He added that businesses opened up without restrictions or mask mandates in July. “The way its worded is fully vaccinated are not required to wear masks, but unvaccinated should, but no one can verify who has and has not been vaccinated.”

Someone very close to me who also contracted COVID in January was my brother Dan who lives in Florida. Our whole family was worried sick.

Dan also got vaccinated as soon as he could, and this is what he’d like to share about his experience. “The worst thing about COVID is the stress, and not knowing what to expect. Luckily it wasn’t too bad for me, but I was really stressed about passing it to my friends and family for fear it would be worse for them.” He says that Florida is a “bit bizarre politically” and that division between the US liberals and conservatives creates a climate where people’s opinion about the vaccination is, “I hate the people that recommend this so I won’t do it.”

He does give the state credit for having free vaccines that are easily accessible.

This is Dan’s message about the importance of being vaccinated.

“All I can say to encourage the people to get vaccinated is to consider others – they might not be able to handle it as well as you. Believe in the advice of people that have spent a lifetime trying to improve lives. Remember much of the motivation of these people come from (the) personal experience of losing loved ones.”

A Toronto radio station, India 88, recently boasted their workplace was 100% vaccinated, and encouraged the public to speak to a doctor to discuss any “misconceptions,” but they received criticism of virtue signalling, and worries of sharing health information, and concerns of threat or intimidation. This response highlights some of the ideas that continue to circulate.

We need to realize we are spoiled by our overabundance of resources, for example a recent report showed that almost 60% of Canada’s food is thrown out or wasted. We are lucky to have a vaccine supply, when there are billions of people still waiting for the opportunity. There is vast global vaccine inequity and many countries only have vaccination rates hovering at 1%.

We are incredibly lucky in Ontario, that lockdowns, mask mandates, and rapid vaccinations have been able to work together to protect us from seeing the worst of what coved can do.

For all the people who are worried that the mandates are an attack on freedom, please consider that we have the freedom to protest, and voice our concerns.